One crime that is becoming popular with thieves and often overlooked by the public is Identity Theft. With occurrences on the rise, attention must be taken to prevent victimization. Identity Theft affects thousands of people every year with the number of victims growing.
ID Theft occurs when thieves obtain a person’s name, address, date of birth (DOB), and social security number (SSN). This goldmine of information can be used, without your knowledge, to commit various types of fraud such as opening new credit cards in your name and draining your bank account. Becoming a victim can be extremely easy as thieves will look through your trash (dumpster divers) searching for account numbers, SSN and other vital information. Identity Theft also occurs by someone simply stealing your wallet, purse, and mail, important information in your home and by phone/door-to-door scams.
What are the warning signs that you potentially may be a victim of ID Theft? According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, credit card fraud is the most common form of ID Theft and prevented by simply staying diligent with your credit card statements. Statements that stop arriving or statements that have unknown charges are a clear sign. Being denied credit for no apparent reason, especially if you have good credit, could be a sign. Receiving bills from companies you don’t recognize or credit card bills from credit cards you did not apply for is also a warning sign.
How can you protect yourself? As with any crime, you cannot completely control whether you become a victim. The most important principle to remember, and one we’ve all heard, is “if it’s too good to be true, it is.” Shredding documents is an essential tool in fighting the victimization of ID theft. Anything that has your name,address, DOB, SSN, or account numbers should be shredded prior to it being placed in the trash.
Do you have your social security card or your birth certificate in your wallet? If so, why? Don’t you have these numbers and dates memorized? If someone steals your wallet or purse they will have your social security number and when they have that they have everything!
If you believe you have been a victim of Identity Theft, notify your local police, creditors and financial institutions, credit report agencies, and Social Security Administration immediately.